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Gardening in Wyoming

by Joanne Kennedy

We Westerners like a challenge--but gardening in Wyoming might be too much of one for me.

It's dry here, and the growing season is short. Every year spring seems to come earlier. My bulbs come up, my daffodils bloom, and then wham! We get slammed with snow. Last year we got ten inches on May 25th.

At least I've learned not to run out and buy bedding plants at the first sign of spring. It only took me a few years of tragedy to realize that you absolutely can't plant anything until the end of May. It's really tempting to break that rule when the skies are blue, the temperature is a balmy 75, and robins are frolicking in the back yard, but I've learned to resist temptation.

You also have to resist the temptation to buy many of the plants that catch your eye at the garden center. Anything that needs moisture or humidity is out, and since the temperature can vary by forty degrees in a single day, you need fairly hardy varieties. Delicate plants don't make it either; they tend to get flattened by the wind.

And if your flowers survive the dryness, the variations in temperature, and the wind, they're liable to get shredded by hail sometime in midsummer. Almost every year, we have a major hailstorm, often with chunks of ice the size of golf balls falling from the sky. Last year, the hail totaled my car, so you can imagine what the garden looked like!

So why do I live here? Well, when it's good, it's really good. Because of the dryness, our summer heat isn't sticky or humid, and it doesn't rain much. The fluctuations in temperature mean that if we just wait out a cold spell, we'll be back to blue skies in no time. And the wind's great for cleaning out your car. Just face Nebraska, open the doors on both sides, and let the wind do the work!

Once you've lived here a while, you learn what works. I have a gorgeous patch of poppies in the back yard that seem to be able to withstand any weather. Shasta daisies do well, too, and mums.

And when we do succeed in growing something, we sure appreciate it!

What challenges do you face in your gardening efforts? Are there particular plants that work well in your area despite the difficulties?


  1. I had a garden spot where nothing would grow. I tried a variety of plants, kept amending the soil, and kept replanting...and then, not sure what happened, but EVERYTHING I planted there took off at once. Then it was so overgrown, I had to remove a few plants! :)

  2. Terry, you must have done something right! Now if only you could figure out what it was... It sounds like the kind of thing that happens in my garden - feast or famine!

  3. Gardening in Wyoming certainly does sound challenging and reminds me of the time I listened to my mother-in-law and planted our peas on St. Patrick's Day! LOL!

    We had a torrent of rain and we could just picture those poor little peas wearing snorkels as they were washed away.

    There are some things we can plant in April, like pansies, peas, corn, lettuce, etc. , but our first year we had 1 foot of snow in April, so we do tend to wait til the end of the month.

    And as much as the weather begs us to plant our tomatoes before Mother's Day...that's a hard and fast rule we can't ignore.

    Thanks for a wonderful post, Joanne!

  4. I lived in Illinois all my life until I moved to fla. so we have alot of sand for our soil so you need to mix it with compost so I made my own compost bed and we get good tomatoes now,should say my hubby(to-be-ex)is the gardner and I weed it and pick it! I have a herb garden..and blueberries..its intesting about Wyomin, like to visit your state one of these days.
    thanks for the blog!

  5. I remember the very first year Husband decided to make a garden. He used the shovel, the rake and made all these beautiful rows, put the seed in and the only thing that came up was okra...the one thing he did NOT plant. But when it comes to flowers he can make silk flowers reproduce...they wilt when I glance sideways at them. Our yard is lovely this year since we have a very rare occurance called Spring in Oklahoma!

  6. Joanne, I have flowers of some kind blooming year round here in Florida, but I have to admit to having someone else do the work.

  7. Thanks for visiting, Colleen! I love the image of the poor little peas, snorkeling for their lives...

  8. Bookworm, I've been thinking about trying herbs. Most of them do pretty well in a dry climate, and I love fresh basil pesto!
    Hope you get to visit Wyoming soon. It's worth the trip!

  9. Carolyn, I think I've seen pictures of your Oklahoma garden--beautiful! I didn't realize it was your hubby that has the green thumb. A man of many talents:)

  10. Amelia, that sounds like my kind of garden! We had someone mow our lawn for us last year. It was heaven!

  11. I've been to Wyoming, and it is beautiful. In Houston we have challenges, too. Not the cold but the heat. A lot of flowers wither in the heat, and just forget about growing daffodils or tulips. No English garden for me!

  12. Shana, I have to admit I would miss the daffodils and tulips. Ours don't last long (they usually get buried under snow within days of blooming) but at least they're there to tell us spring is on the way!

  13. Amen, Joanne. While gardening in Wyoming is frustrating, when you do succeed, you are so proud.

  14. My problem is trying to keep things alive in the high desert...I tend to be a bit sensitive to the heat so I don't get out and water like I should! That being said, my iris are flourishing nicely and the California poppies seem to do their own thing (seeding themselves around my backyard) but I have lost a few of my rosebushes...


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